Tuesday briefing: After Russia retaliates, what might happen next?

In today’s newsletter: Russia responded to an attack on a military supply line with a devastating blitz on civilian targets. Peter Beaumont speaks from Kyiv about defiance, destruction and what to expect

Good morning. On Saturday, Vladimir Putin called a blast at a vital bridge linking Russia and Crimea an “act of terror” carried out by “Ukrainian secret services”; yesterday, the Kremlin took horrifying revenge. The missile and kamikaze drone attacks on Ukrainian cities and key civilian infrastructure were roundly condemned as war crimes; they hit a playground and a tourist bridge, power plants and waterworks. Today, Volodymyr Zelenskiy will tell a virtual G7 summit: “We are dealing with terrorists. They have two targets: energy infrastructure and people.”

If Putin is seeking retribution, he does not appear to be satisfied yet. There were reports of 15 more Russian rockets fired on the city of Zaporizhzhia overnight; Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emine Dzheppar, said they targeted residential buildings and “an educational institution”. There were also reports that a power plant in the southwestern city of Vinnytsia has been shelled. And this morning, air raid sirens are going off in Kyiv again.

So why has Putin decided to take aim at civilian targets – and what does Ukraine need to protect itself if this strategy continues? For today’s newsletter, I spoke to Peter Beaumont, reporting for the Guardian from Kyiv, about the impact of the strikes, and what might happen next. Here are the headlines.

Five big stories

  1. Economy | Kwasi Kwarteng will need to find £60bn of savings by 2026 to fill the gap left by tax cuts, new analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests. Meanwhile, Liz Truss overruled Kwarteng’s top appointment at the Treasury and handed the role to a veteran Treasury official.

  2. UK news | A nurse poisoned two newborn babies and was the “constant malevolent” presence on a hospital neonatal unit when other infants died or unexpectedly collapsed, a court has been told. Lucy Letby, 32, is accused of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder another 10 between June 2015 and June 2016.

  3. Scotland | Nicola Sturgeon has told the Scottish National party’s annual conference that “we are the independence generation”. Her speech came as the UK supreme court prepared to hear arguments on Tuesday on whether Holyrood can set up an independence referendum without Westminster’s approval.

  4. Iran | The UK has announced sanctions against Iran’s morality police as well as its national chief and the head of its Tehran division, in response to the violent suppression of recent protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in their custody.

  5. Labour | The former shadow minister Sam Tarry has been deselected as an MP after a bitter row in the Ilford South constituency. Tarry, who helped organise Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign, was defeated by local council leader Jas Athwal, a close ally of neighbouring MP and shadow cabinet minister Wes Streeting.

In depth: ‘Putin will never put us on our knees’

A rescuer helps an injured woman after strikes hit Kyiv.
A rescuer helps an injured woman after strikes hit Kyiv. Photograph: State Emergency Service of Ukraine/AFP/Getty Images


What happened?

In the months since Russian strikes on Kyiv at the start of the invasion of Ukraine, the capital city has returned to some semblance of normality. On Monday, that atmosphere was shattered.

“When I was here in the summer, it felt like an ordinary city,” said Peter Beaumont. “And, up until now, on this trip, as well. When you go to a park, there are people doing yoga or running; restaurants are open, people are going to work. It doesn’t feel like that today.”

The first air-raid alert in Kyiv on Monday lasted almost six hours, from 6.47am local time until 12.25pm. Fourteen other cities and areas across the country, many of them far from the frontlines and without significant military infrastructure, were also hit – you can see them mapped here. There were explosions in Lviv and Ternopil in the east, Dnipro, seen as a safe haven for refugees, and, for the third night in a row, the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, which came under attack again last night.

The Ukrainian ministry of defence said Russia fired 83 missiles during the onslaught, of which 43 were intercepted. The latest toll is 19 dead, with 60 injured, figures that are likely to rise.


Where did the missiles hit?

Russian state media focused on the damage to “critical infrastructure facilities”, and Ukraine’s prime minister Denys Shmyhal confirmed that 11 such facilities in eight regions as well as Kyiv had been hit. The mayor of Kharkiv said the city was “completely without power”, and more than 1,300 settlements across the country were cut off, the state emergency services said last night. This morning, there are reports of 98 miners stuck underground in the town of Kryvyi Rih because of power outages.

That infrastructure – power stations, water systems and transport facilities – is crucial to Ukraine’s civilian population rather than its military. While such operations are widely viewed as unjustifiable under international law, they do “have a raw strategic value in a country that has such harsh winters”, Peter said. “People are already really worried about what the next few months are going to be like.”

Even so, the most shocking feature of Monday’s attack was the apparent selection of civilian targets – at rush hour – with no conceivable value beyond retribution.

A bridge popular with tourists on the Dnieper River was hit. Ukraine’s culture minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said that at least two museums and the National Philharmonic building were damaged. And a missile exploded in Taras Shevchenko Park, often used by families and children, leaving a crater right next to a playground. A widely shared video showed a student recording herself as she headed to class at nearby Taras Shevchenko university and cowering as a missile hit close by.

Western leaders called the attacks war crimes. “There doesn’t seem to be any attempt to justify missiles hitting what are clearly civilian targets,” Peter said. “All of this is framed as a response to an attack on the Kerch bridge between Russia and Crimea – but that is a main military supply line. Hitting a tourist bridge in response to that seems like some form of trolling with a missile.”


What was the response in Russia?

In televised remarks, Vladimir Putin said that the attacks were a necessary reaction to the Kerch bridge attack. “To leave such acts without a response is simply impossible,” he said.

Andrew Roth, the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, said it was “transparent” that the “main audience for [the] strikes are nationalist critics at home”. After weeks of setbacks, Russia’s hawks have demanded a harsher response – and their comments on Monday suggested that Putin had succeeded in appeasing them. Andrew and Pjotr Sauer explain that crucial context here.

Hardliners were also satisfied by the installation of Sergei Surovikin, a notoriously cruel military leader with the nickname “General Armageddon” who was central to Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict, as overall commander of the Kremlin’s forces in Ukraine. A former defence ministry official told Pjotr Sauer for this profile: “Surovikin is absolutely ruthless, with little regard for human life. I am afraid his hands will be completely covered in Ukrainian blood.”


How did Ukraine react?

After the attacks abated, Peter headed out from his hotel to report from Shevchenko Park. Tetiana Kononir, 58, who was watching the cleanup operation, told him: “This only unites us even more. [Putin] will never defeat us. He will never put us on our knees.”

There was plenty of evidence of that kind of defiance. Videos circulated on social media showing people singing Ukrainian songs as they took cover in a metro station. Peter saw a boy doing tricks on his skateboard within 200 metres of the attack, people walking their dogs, and shops and restaurants opening again.

This on-the-ground piece by Peter, Charlotte Higgins and Artem Mazhulin captures the sense that morale will not be dented by a strategy more focused on civilian targets. “People are angry,” Peter said. “They just want to get at Putin. You see people getting treated for shrapnel injuries, and they’re remarkably calm. There is a sense that with what this city has been through, it can survive anything.”

Ukrainian officials struck a similar tone, with Volodymyr Zelenskiy posting a video from the street outside his office even as the missiles struck. Others used the attacks as evidence for the urgency of their calls for greater backing from the west – particularly in terms of missile defence systems. “Protect the sky over Ukraine!” Defence minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted. “This will protect our cities and our people. This will protect the future of Europe.”


What happens next?

The vital question over the next few days, Peter said, is whether “this is a screw-you retaliatory strike or the start of something bigger and more serious”. But there are doubts over whether Russia has the stocks of missiles to maintain such an approach, as Dan Sabbagh notes in this analysis.

The chief of GCHQ will say in a rare speech today that Russian forces are exhausted and their supplies of munitions are running out. “These attacks don’t make a lot of sense for the military picture on the ground,” Peter said. “Shooting up cities doesn’t advance your troops. What I think would worry Ukraine more is some change on the frontlines.”

In that context, there may be more concern over the news yesterday that Russian forces will be allowed to return to Belarus, potentially stretching Ukrainian forces further on the northern border.

Meanwhile, as G7 leaders meet today with Volodymyr Zelenskiy in attendance, western leaders appear to have acknowledged the renewed urgency of the case for urgent additional help: Germany said it would begin to deliver four long-awaited advanced air defence systems in the next few days, while Biden also pledged the provision of advanced air defence systems in a call with Zelenskiy yesterday.

“Those systems aren’t infallible,” Peter said. “But you cannot have a conversation with anyone in this country, whether they’re a farmer in Kherson or a senior official, where they don’t come up.”

Behind all of this is an unthinkable threat: the prospect of nuclear attack. “Everybody here knows it’s a shoe that hasn’t dropped, and it overshadows life to some degree,” Peter said. “But one of the features of the last few days is that if something like what happened to the Kerch bridge doesn’t prompt that, when it was so humiliating for Putin, we may have a long way to go to get there.”

What else we’ve been reading

Amy Sherald’s portraits of the Obamas.
Amy Sherald’s portraits of the Obamas. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • After painting a striking portrait of Michelle Obama in 2018, artist Amy Sherald’s profile rocketed. Gloria Oladipo spoke with the painter about her decades-long career, her latest show and how her conception of Blackness infuses her work. Nimo

  • Gaby Hinsliff’s piece on burnout explores the impact of smartphones, the pandemic, and the cost of living crisis on our working lives. “Burnout used to be a furtive secret, something few dared admit to for fear of being judged professionally,” she writes. “Not any more.” Is “settling for something duller but easier” the only answer? Archie

  • Heather Stewart spoke to three people about why they will strike this autumn. “[We’ve] been battered from pillar to post with the cost of living going up,” says Bella Fashola, a 26-year-old train cleaner. In response, Fashola says, they will fight “to the bitter end” until they get better contracts. Nimo

  • Keith Stuart has been playing video games for more than 40 years, which is quite a shift. “God knows how many alien worlds I’ve seen,” he writes, in a superb piece for today’s Pushing Buttons newsletter about the memories which linger - and how, most of the time, it’s not about the action, but the people he played with. Sign up here and you’ll get it in your inbox at midday. Archie

  • Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett writes about how letting go of 360-degree model of motherhood, that pushed the idea that motherhood is supposed to constitute your entire life’s work, has made her – and her child – far happier. Nimo


Athletics | British sprinter CJ Ujah has been cleared of deliberately taking banned drugs, and will be free to return to competition next year. Ujah’s ban was cut to 22 months but the Team GB men’s 4x100m relay team will not regain the Tokyo 2020 silver of which they were stripped. Read Sean Ingle’s interview with Ujah.

Football | Lionesses manager Sarina Wiegman, who led England to a first major trophy since 1966, confirmed she has not extended her contract beyond 2025. Weigman said she feels “very valued” by the Football Association but is happy with the length of her deal.

Football | A sensational strike from Ashley Young cancelled out Emmanuel Dennis’ opener to earn Aston Villa a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest. The result ends Forest’s five-game losing run and lifts them from the bottom of the Premier League table.

The front pages

Guardian front page 11 October 2022

The Guardian leads with “Zelenskiy pleads for more help to combat Russian ‘terrorist’ attacks”. The Mail splashes with “The day death rained from the sky”, and carries a dispatch from Dnipro. The Financial Times has a picture of the attacks on its front, but leads with “Borrowing costs soar again as BoE and chancellor fail to calm markets”.

The Telegraph leads with the NHS nurse accused of killing seven babies under the banner “Nurse used insulin to kill babies, trial told”. The Times, the Sun, the Express and the Mirror all lead on the same story. Meanwhile, the i says “Truss faces showdown with rebels” and reports that the Prime Minister will today confront her “divided cabinet.”

Today in Focus

Undated family handout file photo of Molly Russell.
Photograph Photograph: Family handout/PA

Molly Russell: how a teenager’s death put social media on trial

After 14-year-old Molly Russell died in November 2017, her father, Ian, scrolled through some of the social media posts she had been exposed to in the final months of her life. Dan Milmo, the Guardian’s global technology editor, reports on the evidence presented at the inquest into Molly’s death, and what campaigners believe needs to be done to make social media safer for children.

Cartoon of the day | Steve Bell

Cartoon by Steve Bell

The Upside

A bit of good news to remind you that the world’s not all bad

Augusto Pradelli with two models of electric vehicles he manufactured, in Maracaibo, Venezuela.
Augusto Pradelli with two models of electric vehicles he manufactured, in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Photograph: Luis Bravo/AFP/Getty Images

Just a decade ago, Venezuela was one of the world’s largest oil producers. But the petro-state is now experiencing a fuel crisis after years of economic and political chaos. In many ways this has been an ordeal for ordinary citizens – drivers will queue for hours at petrol stations that sometimes run dry. However, the crisis has provided fertile ground for innovation – entrepreneurs in Maracaibo have created affordable solar-powered vehicles called “electric carts”. Inspired by drag racing, they transform golf carts, using recycled materials like scrap metal pieces from fridges. The electric carts reach speeds of up to 40km an hour and can travel 60-100km with up to four passengers on a six-hour charge. The vehicles are not yet perfect but the makers are sure that with a few modifications they can be used by anyone.

Sign up here for a weekly roundup of The Upside, sent to you every Sunday

Bored at work?

And finally, the Guardian’s crosswords to keep you entertained throughout the day – with plenty more on the Guardian’s Puzzles app for iOS and Android. Until tomorrow.


Archie Bland

The GuardianTramp

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